CHRIS PERLEY PULLS A THREE-PEAT TAKING OXFORD PLAINS MAINE CLASSIC 75
By Carol D. Haynes
Photos by Jim Feeney
Oxford, Maine – Chris Perley drove by race leader Brad Lichty on lap 22 at Oxford Plains Speedway Friday night to take his third straight win on the ISMA Lucas Oil/Helping Hands America Super Series trail. In so doing, he becomes the first driver to cop three straight feature wins since Dave McKnight accomplished an ISMA three-peat in 2001. Perley picked up his second win in three days after taking the Stafford win on Wednesday night as he easily walked away from the pack after his lead pass. Pat Abold made a valiant attempt to catch the Rowley Rocket, but had to settle for the second spot as Perley again lapped much of the 24-car field. Perley seemed a bit surprised at the ease of his run as he stood in victory lane before a large Maine crowd.
“A three-peat is awesome. I don’t know what to say. The car felt as good as the one we had at Stafford and I didn’t think we’d be able to get a car that felt that good again. We started off neutral, the tire didn’t burn off and we ended up tight. It was perfect. I don’t think I’ve ever won three in a row before, except maybe in my first days, but not in ISMA because right now it’s hard to win. Somehow we’re making it look easy and I don’t know quite how. I hope that we can keep just a little bit of what we got and we’ll be good for the rest of the year. The crew is giving me a car that isn’t breaking down and it’s making it look easy. The car is awesome, the crew is awesome and the sponsors – Eddie Shea, R&R, New England Motor Racing Supply, Perley’s Marina, Barrett’s, Hardy’s Transportation, Jack Cook Enterprises - are keeping us going plus I’m partially nuts and that helps. I fit right in with the crew.”
Pat Abold, who started next to Perley in the sixth row, came in to second with about forty-laps to go, but was only able to chase the Vic Miller 11 around the Maine oval. “I think we made a lot of progress on the car yesterday, but Chris Perley, Vic Miller and that team have their stuff together right now. They are staying consistent and that’s what it takes to win championships. We’re consistent too, but it’s second or third or whatever. We just have to step it up a little bit more and I think we’re going to be there.”
Car owner, and driver Brad Lichty was all smiles with his competitive third place finish. “Not bad, not bad. About lap 21 when the caution came out, I could feel the car getting loose so I had to protect it and save the tire. On lap 48’s caution I couldn’t believe that the rest of them didn’t come by me; we were that loose. I saw the scoreboard and Nokie was on my rear. I figured he was coming any moment. They just never came. We’ll take the third. I saw my son’s number on the board. He was coming on strong too. Not a bad finish for the team – a third, fourth and a sixth!”
Joe Petro, who put a partially destroyed car back together between Wednesday night and Friday night, was on the pole for the Maine Classic 75 and he quickly jumped out to lead the event, but lost it soon thereafter to Nokie Fornoro. A quick caution came on lap 4 for a tangle between Petro and John Payne, which sent both to the rear.
Fornoro resumed his lead spot as Jamie Letcher, Jamie Timmons, Brad Lichty, Mark Sammut, Perley, Bentley Warren and Mike Lichty sorted things out behind. The senior Lichty moved through the field to take over the lead by lap 15 and he passed by Fornoro on the front stretch.
Brad pulled away from the Soule Racing 32 as Chris Perley just cruised by car after car behind, putting his rail running 11 into second on lap 20. As Randy Wimert’s 60 was exiting the fray, he tangled with the 86 of Kevin Torigney, bringing out the yellow. Pitting at this juncture were Jamie Letcher, Wimert, Torigney and John Payne with most restarting at the tail.
It didn’t take long after the restart for Perley to go to the outside of Lichty for the lead and he was gone. Moving up behind Lichty was Pat Abold who took over second by lap 35. A few other casualties of the event at this point were Justin Belfiore, Jamie Timmons, Letcher and Jennifer Chesbro.
As Perley was adding real estate behind him, a yellow flew for the 29 of Russ Wood who slid off into the dirt off turn three, took a little detour and drove back on the track on turn four, never really skipping a beat, but the yellow had been called and Wood went back. Joey Payne, driving the Lane 97, brother John Payne, Bentley Warren and Vern Romanoski, in the Chapman 5, all made adjustment stops, coming in behind Wood at the tail.
The green dropped for the final time and the 11 flew away from Abold, Brad Lichty, Scotty Martel and Mike Lichty. Nokie Fornoro and the third car in the Patco team Dave McKnight, who were intermingled in lap cars with about twenty to go. There was no stopping the “rocket” now as he was up into the rear of the top ten. Abold, Brad Lichty, Mike Lichty, Wood were in the top five as the checkered flew far ahead for Perley.
Rookie Mike Lichty was sneaking up on his dad at race end and he commented after the race. “We weren’t good all day until the heat race came around and we got better and better. We changed a few things for the feature and we made it. I was just trying to follow Bentley – the old guy around – and I saw him getting loose, so I stepped out high and passed him. When I saw that it was 40 to go, I started to go, picking them off. I guess I waited too long. If we had a couple more laps I might have gotten my dad at the end, and I would have passed him if I had the chance. All in all it was a good night.
Russ Wood, who was in his second outing in a new car, grabbed off a fifth place near race end. “A fifth place with a new car is okay. We have some bugs to work out and I went off the track once. We’re struggling a little, but we’ll take the fifth versus a twentieth and we’ll try to improve from here for Sandusky next week. The car was getting better at the end. I was trying to drive it differently, trying new things. I think it will come around and be a good car.”
Scott Martel lost a couple spots right at race end with a badly damaged tire costing him a possible top five finish. McKnight, Fornoro, Martel, Wentworth and Sammut topped the first ten.
The ISMA Lucas Oil / Helping Hands America contingent have a week’s respite before hitting the pavement again at Sandusky (OH) Speedway’s July 23-24 Hy-Miler Nationals weekend.
Event #8 - Oxford Plains Maine Classic 75 - July 16, 2004
Heat 1: Joe Petro, Mike Lichty, Chris Perley, Pat Abold, Joey Payne, Kevin Torigney, Vern Romanoski, Jennifer Chesbro
Heat 2: Nokie Fornoro, Jamie Letcher, Jamie Timmons, Russ Wood, Justin Belfiore, Bobby Santos, Dave McKnight, R.D. Timmons
Heat 3: John Payne, Mark Sammut, Brad Lichty, Bentley Warren, Rick Wentworth, Scott Martel, Randy Wimert, Dan Osmeloski
FEATURE: 1. Chris Perley (11), 2. Pat Abold (26), 3. Brad Lichty (74), 4. Mike Lichty (74),5. Russ Wood (29), 6. Dave McKnight (94), 7. Nokie Fornoro (32), 8. Scott Martel (14),9. Rick Wentworth (10), 10. Mark Sammut (78), 11. Bobby Santos (9), 12. Bentley Warren (25),13. Joe Petro (99), 14. Johnny Payne (88), 15. Joey Payne (97), 16. Kevin Torigney (86),17. Vern Romanoski (5), 18. Jamie Letcher (58), 19. Jamie Timmons (27), 20. Justin Belfiore (8),21. Jen Chesbro (33), 22. R.D. Timmons (13), 23. Randy Wimert (60), 24. Dan Osmeloski (01).